My previous question on the Harry Potter text below seems to have caused some controversy which I'd like to try and understand:

それから、少し手足を伸ばそうかと、道路のむかい側にあるパン屋まで歩いて買物に行くことにした。(official Japanese translation)
...when he thought he'd stretch his legs and walk across the road to buy himself a bun from the bakery. (original English text)

What is it about this sentence that makes it such a bad translation? @aguijonazo says that it sounds like Mr Dursley is going to stretch out in the bakery. Is that simply because of the use of 手足 instead of 足 (as pointed out by @sundowner) or is the problem grammatical?

The Japanese text never mentions the 'bun'. I'm assuming that's not part of the issue here.

Finally, how would you fix the sentence (ignoring the 'bun' part which I don't really care about)?

  • 1
    It looks like more subtle than I first thought. The thing should be English stretch one's legs can mean 'to take a walk' whereas 手足を伸ばす means just stretching out. "Going to a bakery with the intention of stretching out" is simply unnatural however you parse the Japanese sentence.
    – sundowner
    Dec 30, 2022 at 12:33
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    I’m not sure if I get the nuance of the English phrase correctly but I might consider something like 運動がてら or 散歩がてら.
    – aguijonazo
    Dec 30, 2022 at 14:09
  • @aguijonazo Stretching one's legs generally means to go for a short walk after sitting down for some time, to relieve weariness. Dec 30, 2022 at 18:42

1 Answer 1


The main issue is the usage of 手足を伸ばす.

手足を伸ばす basically has an implication of relaxing (imagine stretching out on a bed). See the following definition in Daijisen:


Since you can’t really 手足を伸ばして歩く (feels a little contradictory), to interpret the sentence you need to link the 手足を伸ばす all the way to the situation of being in the bakery where somehow you relax during shopping. But it’s a stretch.

BTW, while 足を伸ばす works slightly better because it at least can imply movement, it isn’t perfect because it basically means to extend your journey (i.e., travel additionally), but there is no initial travel in this situation so it doesn’t quite fit.

So it’s a bit of a mystery what the translator was going for IMO. It’s quite possible they just got their idioms entirely mixed up.

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